July 30, 2012 - Polar Pioneer

Polar Pioneer Launched five years ago this week, the Phoenix Mars Lander made the first successful landing in the Martian north polar region. Phoenix confirmed and examined deposits of underground water ice detected by the Mars Odyssey orbiter, and identified a mineral called calcium carbonate that suggested occasional presence of thawed water. Phoenix also found soil chemistry with significant implications for life, and observed falling snow. The mission’s biggest surprise was the discovery of perchlorate, an oxidizing chemical on Earth that is food for some microbes and potentially toxic for others. Not surprisingly, during its first Martian winter, excessive loads of ice formed on the lander and collapsed its two huge solar panels (one of which is seen above), effectively ending the mission.

Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona / Texas A&M University

Weekly Calendar

July 30 - August 5, 2012

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 30

Pluto 0.9° north of Moon

1965: SA-10 launched, last Saturn 1 vehicle
1971: Apollo 15 lands on Moon

Moon phase Tuesday 31

1969: Mariner 6 flies by Mars
1971: First vehicle driven on Moon by Apollo 15 astronauts Scott & Irwin
1992: STS-46 Atlantis launched
1999: Lunar Prospector mission ends

Moon phase Wednesday 1

Full Moon 11:27 PM ET

1818: Maria Mitchell born
1967: Lunar Orbiter V launched
1968: Saturn V production ends
1973: First X-24B lifting body glide test

Moon phase Thursday 2

1971: Apollo 15 lunar module Falcon leaves Moon in first televised lunar liftoff
1991: STS-43 Atlantis launched

Moon phase Friday 3

Jupiter 5° north of Aldebaran
Neptune 6° south of Moon

2004: MESSENGER spacecraft launched to Mercury
2005: First in-flight space shuttle repair

Moon phase Saturday 4

1967: NASA announces sixth astronaut class
1984: First Ariane 3 launched
2007: Phoenix Mars Lander launched

Moon phase Sunday 5

1930: Neil Armstrong born
1966: Final M2-F1 lifting body glide test
1969: Mariner 7 flies by Mars
: Juno spacecraft launched to Jupiter

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.